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T-Mobile's Business Market Ambitions Prompting Potential Partners To Take A Look

T-Mobile, now the third largest carrier in the U.S., wants to attract more businesses and channel partners. Master agents say some solution providers are now taking a look at the once-consumer-focused carrier.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere hasn't been shy about the carrier's plans to turn up the heat on its competitors. The company recently jumped ahead into becoming the third largest carrier in the U.S. by subscriber count. And as T-Mobile -- which was once geared toward consumers -- amps up its business focus, some solution providers are starting to take another look.

T-Mobile prides itself on its "un-carrier" approach to the telecommunications market. The company was the first of the telecommunications providers to do away with the popular two-year contract structure historically offered by some of its competitors. T-Mobile has stayed focused on its core competency -- voice and the data network -- rather than expanding into newer technology areas such as cloud.

In its third-quarter 2015 earnings report, T-Mobile said it added 2.3 million subscribers for a total of 61.2 million. These most recent numbers mean that the carrier has surpassed rival Sprint to become the third largest carrier in the U.S. These numbers don't just reflect consumers. Businesses are taking another look at the carrier and, at the same time, T-Mobile is attracting significantly more interest from the channel, partners say.

[Related: 5 Things You May Not Know About T-Mobile's Channel Program]

PlanetOne Communications is a master agent and one of the first T-Mobile partners that came on board when the carrier launched its channel program in 2014. The young channel program is unique and solution providers and end customers are taking notice, said Jonathan Hartman, vice president of sales for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based PlanetOne.

T-Mobile works with solution providers in an agency model as opposed to a reseller model. Partners are paid commissions from T-Mobile, which bills end customers directly. The company, according to Hartman, allows partners to focus on relationships with their clients and sales, Hartman said.

"The program allows partners to focus on sales, revenues and relationships and not so much with staging phones and taking care of the back office," he said. "T-Mobile has made it very easy for partners to do business with them, and that is why we have embraced T-Mobile over working with some of the traditional carriers."

In addition to ease of doing business, partners are recognizing the strength of T-Mobile's data network, a point of pride for the carrier and an area in which it has invested heavily, Hartman said.

"It's one thing to have coverage; it's another to have usable coverage. The data [T-Mobile] is providing and the accessibility to unlimited data is becoming increasingly important, and our partners and end users are noticing that and benefiting from it," he said.

Like PlanetOne, World Wide Telecom (WTG) has seen increasing interest around T-Mobile as high-speed wireless data enables customers to do business in more places, said Vince Bradley, CEO of WTG, a Malibu, Calif.-based master agent that includes T-Mobile in its supplier partner portfolio.

"T-Mobile has unique plans that either allow unlimited phone data, or exclude certain streaming apps from counting towards a customer’s metered data plan," Bradley said.

While T-Mobile's network coverage might not be as broad as its competitors’, the carrier is making the right decisions around supporting the channel, said Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president of cloud transformation for Intelisys, a Petaluma, Calif.-based master agent that partners with many telecommunications providers, including T-Mobile.

Over the past year and a half, the carrier has made necessary investments in both its staff and programs to embrace channel partners and stake its claim in the business market, Pryfogle said.

"I think the channel as a rule is a little slower to adopt, and they need some time for that company to prove their long-term commitment. I believe T-Mobile is doing a lot of the right things and we are definitely seeing growth with them in wireless sales," he said.


T-Mobile's laser focus on voice and connectivity is also helping to set the carrier apart, according to PlanetOne’s Hartman.

"Focusing on connectivity is so important because you can't access the cloud without it. T-Mobile has recognized and embraced that. They are thinking ahead. Having a carrier that is truly focused on that piece, building that critical component and not spreading themselves too thin is what's important about T-Mobile," he said.

T-Mobile was unable to provide a comment for this story to CRN by press time. But, in his annual predictions for 2016, CEO Legere credited the provider's transparent pricing to the higher number of businesses choosing T-Mobile, a number that has quadrupled in the past years, according to Legere.

"T-Mobile has allowed business customers to purchase what they need to run their business and the freedom to buy devices that fit their budget. Ironically, the other carriers have followed suit and all offer similar plans and pricing structures as they were losing customers to T-Mobile," WTG's Bradley said.

T-Mobile is looking forward to taking advantage of the low band 600MHz auction coming up this year, according to Legere. The auction will allow smaller players like T-Mobile and Sprint to grab a slice of the spectrum to better compete with AT&T and Verizon. In his predictions, Legere called the spectrum auctions "the most important in recent U.S. history," and expects T-Mobile to "walk away a winner."

While Legere acknowledges that the telecom industry will look very different in a few years, he believes that T-Mobile will be sticking around, at least for 2016. Recent industry speculation has suggested both T-Mobile and Sprint could be acquired.

"I am sure we’ll see at least three different versions of new merger and acquisition ideas and rumors in U.S. wireless this year, and I’m sure T-Mobile will be in the middle of all of them," Legere said.

WTG's Bradley believes it possible that one of the cable companies could eventually scoop up T-Mobile, which would allow these providers to offer bundled promotions to their customers.

But acquisition rumors aren't discouraging more consumers, business, and partners from looking into T-Mobile, PlanetOne's Hartman said.

"Partners are asking do we have access to T-Mobile and, as a master agent, those are the types of questions we love to hear. When people start getting curious, that creates opportunity," he said.

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